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June book of the month: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Join author webchat Tuesday 26 June at 9pm

(95 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 01-Jun-18 17:25:12

Our June book of the month has been described by one of the mn book bloggers as: "without a doubt one of the best books I have read this year" and another says: "My life was put on hold until I had finished the very last word. I gorged on this novel and greedily devoured every single page." Reece Witherspoon has already snapped up the rights, so join us in reading this now.

Author Celeste Ng will be joining us for a webchat on this thread on 26 June when she'll be answering questions about the book and you'll have the opportunity to discuss with other readers. Find out more about the book, read - or listen to - an extract and find out what the Mumsnet bloggers have to say about Little Fires Everywhere

anonymousbird Mon 04-Jun-18 15:07:22

I am collecting my copy from the library tomorrow, so fingers crossed should have read it in time to comment/post a question! Really enjoyed Everything I Never Told You.

1sttimemama1986 Sun 10-Jun-18 19:33:20

Feeling smug as just picked this up for my holiday read!! So glad it's been recommended.

FernieB Tue 19-Jun-18 19:19:02

Read this in one sitting. Compelling and absorbing. I was quickly drawn into the Richardson's world and equally fascinated by Mia. Although the story is really told by the teenagers it's their mothers who are the most intriguing and in particular the ways they choose to mother their daughters.

Thanks MN - a great read.

Kangaroo1 Tue 19-Jun-18 21:19:20

I absolutely loved this-the perfect combination of an intellectual read, but an easy read too!

IslandLivingEmma Fri 22-Jun-18 17:30:10

Adored this novel! I wanted to ask Celeste if she is planning on a sequel? I am desperate to find out what happens to the characters x

impostersyndrome Fri 22-Jun-18 17:48:18

This is the perfect example of Mumsnet's bookclub bringing a book to my attention that I wouldn't have thought of reading otherwise. I'm halfway through and enjoying it enormously. It raises all sorts of interesting questions in my mind, but I'll save it for the chat.

littlerose12345 Fri 22-Jun-18 21:11:19

Amazing book! What a page turner, finished it today!

My question is where did you get the inspiration for the book from? Always so intrigued by an authors thought process.

Thank you for a great book smile

ramonaquimby Sun 24-Jun-18 00:22:35

Reese Witherspoon has bought the film rights and I think is looking at a mini series similar to what she did for Big Little Lies. Agree was a great read.

Ketzele Sun 24-Jun-18 08:23:16

Loved this book.

Pratchet Sun 24-Jun-18 10:13:45

I'll get this on these recommendations thanks

impostersyndrome Sun 24-Jun-18 14:41:54

OK. I finished it now. I really enjoyed the way the designed community was portrayed. Although it was shown as conformist and I suppose narrow-minded, this was a critique made not in a judgemental way, but showing that decisions made before one has had a chance to learn life-lessons, can determine one's path for decades onwards.

There are several things I'd be interested in discussing on the web-chat, but what strikes me most strongly is the question raised by the book itself: which is more important in the case of parenting: a blood connection, or material provision, when both options involve a loving parent (or set of parents)?

Funnily enough, a slightly different angle on the same question occurred to me when reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. Laski's book seems to be saying that so long as the child is loved (and materially provided for), the blood connection is much less important.

I wonder what the author herself thinks, as Little Fires Everywhere seems to present this as very much a Solomonic dilemma?

Tinlegs Sun 24-Jun-18 19:26:53

I loved this book - and was fascinated by the descriptions of the art and photography. I suppose my question is whether you are tempted to try out some of the ideas in your book and make pictures?

MidiMitch Sun 24-Jun-18 20:23:14

Just nearing the end of the book. Have really enjoyed it but I do find Mia a bit unpleasantly smug. Does anyone else?

LJdorothy Sun 24-Jun-18 22:12:29

Little Boy Lost was one of my favourite books as a teen and the ending still makes me cry, though I have much less patience with the main character now! The little boy in Little Boy Lost didn't have any other options though did he? It was either a family (whether blood related or not) or life in an institution.

MajesticWhine Sun 24-Jun-18 22:24:19

agree MidiMitch, I wasn't a Mia fan. She seemed smug and also I was angered by her inability to just stick in a place for the sake of her daughter. Or at least to admit this failing to herself / to Pearl.

Twogirlsandme Sun 24-Jun-18 22:50:58

I found Mia smug too. Also hated the way she wouldn't acknowledge the damage of the constant moving on Pearl. I'd love a sequel.

TheLastNigel Mon 25-Jun-18 11:32:18

I thought Mia was pretty selfish. I loved the book though.

clary Mon 25-Jun-18 13:31:12

I loved this book especially the relationships of the teenagers. I agree re Mia, also how she was constantly able to find money from nowhere eg to travel around hmmmmmmm

I also found the photos stayed with me and would like to ask if they were inspired by someone else's work (whose?) r are they our own ideas?

BevBrook Mon 25-Jun-18 13:33:24

I really liked the book, thought the writing was fantastic. Mia's relationship with Pearl reminded me a bit of the mother/daughter relationship in Chocolat, where they are constantly moving about. Also Vianne in Chocolat was a similarly arty type who was the catalyst for change in the rather narrow-minded community she moved into.

impostersyndrome Mon 25-Jun-18 21:33:33

Yes LJdorothy, you’re right, the scenarios are not quite comparable. I suppose I was thinking more in the sense that Little Boy Lost seemed to pose the question of whether the father would take on the boy if he wasn’t persuaded he was his son, even though they’d become attached to each other... not sure if I’m explaining myself very well!

BuffaloCustardbath Mon 25-Jun-18 23:23:28

Fantastic book, I've just read this on holiday and it was the perfect holiday read - pact enough to keep interest, absorbing and thrilling, I couldn't wait to read more but equally did t want it to end. I'd also like to ask Celeste if she is considering a sequel, as I'm desperate to know more about what happens to these characters.

MamaCBear Tue 26-Jun-18 12:52:40

Finished this yesterday and really enjoyed it. Can see why the film rights got snapped up, it read in quite a cinematic way and I kept trying to think who I would cast as I read it. I'd like to know if Celeste had any ideal actors she would cast in these roles?

Svemoh Tue 26-Jun-18 13:40:10

Awesome !!! I didn't know Mumsnet has a book club as well !!! I am late for the web chat though ... Let me know the July book

FernieB Tue 26-Jun-18 18:45:55

I was intrigued by the relationship between Izzy and her mother. Clearly this was a result of Elena's fear that Izzy wouldn't be 'normal' after her rough start to life, meaning that she picked on every little thing Izzy said or did. It's sad that Elena was unable to see this and also that Izzy's siblings had learnt to see her in the same way as their mother.

As a mother myself I'd like to think that Izzy and Elena are reunited at some point, but I doubt they would be. I'd like to ask Celeste if she thinks Izzy would return and also if Mia ever sees her parents again?

PoodleQueen Tue 26-Jun-18 20:45:58

Looking forward to this!

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 26-Jun-18 20:59:12

I should be asleep!

Caffeinesolution Tue 26-Jun-18 21:01:07

Hi Celeste, thank you for doing this webchat, I loved the book and am really looking forward to hearing from you! I was wondering which characters you found the easiest and hardest to write?

ClaireTMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-Jun-18 21:02:11

Good evening!

Welcome Celeste Ng! We're delighted that you're able to join us at the Mumsnet Bookclub to talk about Little Fires Everywhere, which we've been reading over the last month.

We've already received some questions so we'll hand over to you.

Could we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all of the authors who join us:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote Little Fires Everywhere?

impostersyndrome Tue 26-Jun-18 21:02:26

Is this meant to be happening now, or have I missed a change of date?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:03:06

Hello MumsNet Readers--hi from Boston, USA! I'm thrilled to be here and looking forward to answering your questions.

impostersyndrome Tue 26-Jun-18 21:03:08

Aha refreshed!

starlight36 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:14

A really fascinating read. Like others I didn't find Mia a particularly likeable character and felt sorry for Pearl that she wasn't ever allowed to stay in one place for long.
My question for Celeste is why did she want to set the story in 'Shaker Heights?' Was it important for the Richardson family to live in a 'perfect' suburb. Was the setting inspired by anywhere you have visited or read about?

Kangaroo1 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:26

Hi Celeste,
Who is your favourite character? Or if its easier- who do you relate to most?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:04:52

Caffeinesolution

Hi Celeste, thank you for doing this webchat, I loved the book and am really looking forward to hearing from you! I was wondering which characters you found the easiest and hardest to write?

Hi Caffeinesolution, thanks for your question! All of the characters were a lot of fun to write, but Izzy was a particular joy: she says and does all the things that we usually stop ourselves from doing in real life, so I just let the reins loose and let her go wild on the page.

Mrs. Richardson was one of the hardest characters to write: I wanted you to understand why she was doing what she did, even if you didn't approve of it. That meant taking you deep inside her head, which took a lot of work.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:05:37

IslandLivingEmma

Adored this novel! I wanted to ask Celeste if she is planning on a sequel? I am desperate to find out what happens to the characters x

Hi IslandLivingEmma! Thanks so much--so glad you enjoyed. I don't have plans for a sequel at the moment--all I know about the characters is on the page. But never say never; perhaps they'll come back to me later on?

PoodleQueen Tue 26-Jun-18 21:06:49

Hi Celeste! When did you know that you were a writer?

Belo Tue 26-Jun-18 21:07:00

I LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters were perfectly crafted; all flawed, but very believable. The dilemma of the mother's and angst of the teenagers felt real.

My question is what has been your biggest dilemma as a mother?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:07:29

littlerose12345

Amazing book! What a page turner, finished it today!

My question is where did you get the inspiration for the book from? Always so intrigued by an authors thought process.

Thank you for a great book smile

Hi littlerose12345! The book began because I really wanted to write about my hometown--Shaker Heights, Ohio, which is really a real place. I'd been away from home for about 10 years (I left for university and never moved back) and I was starting to see my hometown in a different light. I realized how unusual it is, both for the good and the less-good, and I wanted to try and put that into fiction.

I started with the town itself, and imagined a family that might embody that town, and that turned out to be the Richardsons. Then I imagined who might come in and stir up trouble for them, and in came Mia and Pearl. The story grew from there. Thanks for asking!

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:08:15

I loved all the photography stuff in your book and the different ideas portrayed. Were you yourself interested in photography and do you take your own artistic photos?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:09:33

Kangaroo1

Hi Celeste,
Who is your favourite character? Or if its easier- who do you relate to most?

Hi Kangaroo1!

All of the characters have a little bit of me in them, but I most identify with both Mia AND Mrs. Richardson. Which sounds impossible, I know. But I'm very much a planner, like Elena, and at the same time I have a natural dislike for blindly following the rules. Like Mia, I'm a bit of a troublemaker at heart. In my mind, the two of them are flip sides of the same coin--two idealists who take their ideals to extremes--and I relate to both of them very deeply.

Thank you for your question!

VanderlyleGeek Tue 26-Jun-18 21:09:49

Hi Celeste,

Thanks for doing this chat! I was wondering if you could discuss your choice of Ohio as the setting for both of your novels. Shaker Heights' quirky charm aside, how/does the state itself function for you? Does it encapsulate a specific outlook or worldview?

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 26-Jun-18 21:10:44

I’m only on chapter 8, and I’m loving it so far. I like the fact that none of the characters are wholly likeable. I also think that this sort of community would only exist in US and not in U.K. or other parts of Europe (I live in Eastern Europe and it is completely alien to here).

Belo Tue 26-Jun-18 21:11:32

Interesting to read that it was the town that was the starting point for the novel. Reading it I had assumed it was motherhood.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:12:28

impostersyndrome

OK. I finished it now. I really enjoyed the way the designed community was portrayed. Although it was shown as conformist and I suppose narrow-minded, this was a critique made not in a judgemental way, but showing that decisions made before one has had a chance to learn life-lessons, can determine one's path for decades onwards.

There are several things I'd be interested in discussing on the web-chat, but what strikes me most strongly is the question raised by the book itself: which is more important in the case of parenting: a blood connection, or material provision, when both options involve a loving parent (or set of parents)?

Funnily enough, a slightly different angle on the same question occurred to me when reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. Laski's book seems to be saying that so long as the child is loved (and materially provided for), the blood connection is much less important.

I wonder what the author herself thinks, as Little Fires Everywhere seems to present this as very much a Solomonic dilemma?

Hi impostersyndrome,

Ah, this is a very big question--maybe the biggest question of the book. I don't think there's one right answer. Every circumstance is different, and what works in one case isn't always the best choice for another family. What I'd say is that allowing the adoptee some choice in deciding what kinds of relationships to have might be the best thing. I'm definitely not an expert on this, and others will have different feelings. In an ideal world, I think the McCulloughs and Bebe would have shared custody somehow, but alas, we don't live in a world that allows that very often.

Thanks for your question, and for reading.

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:03

If it's not too presumptuous, your ethnic origin appears to be similar to Bebe. If that is true, have you maintained a strong understanding of your background?

starlight36 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:38

Hi Celeste,
You've covered off my question about Shaker Heights already!
I also wondered if it was a conscious decision to make all of the string characters in the book female?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:13:58

PoodleQueen

Hi Celeste! When did you know that you were a writer?

Hi PoodleQueen! I wanted to be a writer very early on--I learned to read quite early, sometime at age 2 according to my mom, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't making up stories. I wrote poems and stories and plays through childhood and all through high school. I didn't think it was an actual career, though, until I was 23 and decided to go to graduate school for writing. Even now I have a hard time believing that I get to do this for a living. I'm very lucky.

Thank you for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:15:34

Tinlegs

I loved this book - and was fascinated by the descriptions of the art and photography. I suppose my question is whether you are tempted to try out some of the ideas in your book and make pictures?

Hi Tinlegs,

I always wanted to be a visual artist, but sadly don't have the talent. sad Imagining Mia's photographs was my way of vicariously living the artist's life. However, after writing the book, I've started to teach myself photography, shooting on 35mm film using some of my dad's old cameras--he was a hobby photographer and I got his cameras after he died. Maybe I'll try re-creating Mia's works, if I ever get the skills.

Thank you for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:17:54

Belo

I LOVED THIS BOOK! The characters were perfectly crafted; all flawed, but very believable. The dilemma of the mother's and angst of the teenagers felt real.

My question is what has been your biggest dilemma as a mother?

Hi Belo,

So glad you enjoyed the novel! Right now, I must admit I'm really struggling with explaining our current political situation to my son. He's a sweet and sensitive child, and I don't know whether it's better to try and shield him from what's happening in our country now, or to try and talk with him so he's prepared. That's always the fine line parents walk, isn't it: how much do you protect your child, and how much do you try and "toughen them up"? It's important to me to raise a child who's engaged in the world and empathetic, so we talk about these things in terms he can understand, where possible. I suspect many parents out there may be dealing with similar issues.

SometimesTheSmallestThings Tue 26-Jun-18 21:18:05

I really enjoyed this book and loved feeling so drawn into so many characters’ narratives and seeing the little world of Shaker Heights and the huge themes of the book from all their different perspectives. Are there any characters in the book you’d most like to revisit? I so wanted to know how Pearl settled in her next home, and wondered too what happened in all the years since to the Ryans.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:20:06

clary

I loved this book especially the relationships of the teenagers. I agree re Mia, also how she was constantly able to find money from nowhere eg to travel around hmmmmmmm

I also found the photos stayed with me and would like to ask if they were inspired by someone else's work (whose?) r are they our own ideas?

Hi clary!

All of Mia's photos are imagined--but I spent time looking at contemporary and up-and-coming photographers' works to learn what kinds of techniques were possible, and what kinds of themes the artists were exploring. Then I used those ideas to make up Mia's photos. One real-life model for her, though, was the photographer Cindy Sherman--she's one of my favorites, and I imagined she would have been one of Mia's mental role models.

littlerose12345 Tue 26-Jun-18 21:21:14

Thank you for answering!
Lots of great questions tonight!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:23:05

VanderlyleGeek

Hi Celeste,

Thanks for doing this chat! I was wondering if you could discuss your choice of Ohio as the setting for both of your novels. Shaker Heights' quirky charm aside, how/does the state itself function for you? Does it encapsulate a specific outlook or worldview?

Hi VanderlyleGeek! I set both novels in Ohio because it's territory that I know well, having grown up there. But I do think Ohio represents a particular bit of America: it's midwestern, but not quite, it's got big cities but it's also quite rural in parts; it's neither west nor east nor plains--in a lot of way, it's the most average state in the union, and it's what many people think of when they think of "typical America." So I liked the idea of setting both of these stories in this "typical" place--scare quotes very much intended--to encourage readers to think about the larger context f the country and our culture.

I don't know yet if my next work will be set in Ohio; that's still up in the air.

FernieB Tue 26-Jun-18 21:24:10

Hi Celeste. I loved this book and will be recommending it to my book club.

The mother-daughter relationships are complex. I liked that Mia had left her family behind seemingly without regret and kept moving whereas Pearl was desperate to put roots down. It was as though Elena and Mia had the wrong daughters!

Did you base any characters on anyone you know/have met? Are there elements of you in any of them?

MamaCBear Tue 26-Jun-18 21:25:14

By the way, great idea for a prank with the sticks in the locks! Is that something you'd heard of before or did you make it up?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:25:24

MamaCBear

Finished this yesterday and really enjoyed it. Can see why the film rights got snapped up, it read in quite a cinematic way and I kept trying to think who I would cast as I read it. I'd like to know if Celeste had any ideal actors she would cast in these roles?

Hi MamaCBear! I'm ecstatic to have Reese Witherspoon as Elena Richardson--she was my dream casting from the start. While watching Big Little Lies, I said to my husband, "Wouldn't she be amazing as Mrs. Richardson?" So that's a dream come true. I'm also thrilled to have Kerry Washington as Mia; having a black actress will bring the themes of race right up to the front in the TV adaptation.

For the teens, I imagine they'll have to find some young rising stars. Zendaya would be amazing for Pearl, as Kerry's onscreen daughter. And I'll put in a plug to the casting gods for Jon Hamm as Mr. Richardson, just because I happen to like him very, very much.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:27:44

SallySwann

If it's not too presumptuous, your ethnic origin appears to be similar to Bebe. If that is true, have you maintained a strong understanding of your background?

Hi SallySwann! Yes, you're correct: I'm a Chinese-American woman, though Bebe is a new immigrant and I'm first-generation (I was born here in the US). So in many ways I'm not as connected to Chinese culture as Bebe is: I don't speak Cantonese, my family's dialect, I've lived here all my life, and my main cultural references are very American. Having been raised by two immigrant parents, though, I do feel an understanding of some of the ways Chinese people tend to look at life, as well as what an immigrant's experience in the US might be like.

Thank you for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:30:14

FernieB

I was intrigued by the relationship between Izzy and her mother. Clearly this was a result of Elena's fear that Izzy wouldn't be 'normal' after her rough start to life, meaning that she picked on every little thing Izzy said or did. It's sad that Elena was unable to see this and also that Izzy's siblings had learnt to see her in the same way as their mother.

As a mother myself I'd like to think that Izzy and Elena are reunited at some point, but I doubt they would be. I'd like to ask Celeste if she thinks Izzy would return and also if Mia ever sees her parents again?

Hi FernieB,

Ah, as a mom myself, I'd also like to see all the daughters and mothers have some kind of working relationship int he future. smile I don't know if Izzy will return, but I'm pretty sure she would want to get in touch with her family at some point. It's hard to escape your family, and even harder to leave them behind forever. And I can imagine a time when Mia would make contact with her parents again--likely for Pearl's sake. But I'll leave the question of whether all of this ever actually happens up to the reader. smile

PoodleQueen Tue 26-Jun-18 21:30:15

Thank you so much for answering our questions, Celeste. It's great to have this opportunity.

MamaCBear Tue 26-Jun-18 21:30:59

Oooh great casting choices, fingers crossed for Jon Hamm!

Celama Tue 26-Jun-18 21:31:01

Hi Celeste, I LOVED this book. It was one that I just wanted to keep reading when I should have been doing other things! It was beautifully descriptive and your style of writing was so believable. I haven’t read Everything I Never Told You although I will now; which one did you enjoy writing the most?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:32:44

starlight36

Hi Celeste,
You've covered off my question about Shaker Heights already!
I also wondered if it was a conscious decision to make all of the string characters in the book female?

Hi starlight36,

Yes, I deliberately focused on the mothers and daughters in the novel. Those are the stories I tend to find most interesting, so they're the ones I write!

This is not to say that men's stories aren't also interesting, but women's stories and stories about mothers often get denigrated in literature, treated as not "serious" or "literary" or "important." I wanted to fight that trend, and treat family and mother-daughter relationships with the same weight we give to stories about war and "men's issues." Hence the focus on women and girls.

Thanks for your question!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:34:57

MrsSchadenfreude

I’m only on chapter 8, and I’m loving it so far. I like the fact that none of the characters are wholly likeable. I also think that this sort of community would only exist in US and not in U.K. or other parts of Europe (I live in Eastern Europe and it is completely alien to here).

Hi Mrs. Schadenfreude! You didn't ask a question technically but I had to jump in and say that recently, I was in Germany and Switzerland for book tour, and learned that in Zurich they also have the small garbage trucks, the rules about cutting your grass, and the rules about what colors you can paint your house! I had no idea. I was told that's common in many parts of Switzerland, and was fascinated to learn this.

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:36:30

It is interesting that you partially grew up in Shaker Heights. Is it as "perfect" as you portray and are there plenty of Richardson type families there?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:36:40

SometimesTheSmallestThings

I really enjoyed this book and loved feeling so drawn into so many characters’ narratives and seeing the little world of Shaker Heights and the huge themes of the book from all their different perspectives. Are there any characters in the book you’d most like to revisit? I so wanted to know how Pearl settled in her next home, and wondered too what happened in all the years since to the Ryans.

Hi SometimesTheSmallestThing! Ooh, good question, and one I hadn't thought about. I'd like to know how all the teens are doing in their college years and their adult lives. I like to think that the events of this novel are a turning point for many of them, and that the things they learn emotionally in the book may point each of their lives in a different direction. I'll let the readers decide what that is, for now!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:38:37

FernieB

Hi Celeste. I loved this book and will be recommending it to my book club.

The mother-daughter relationships are complex. I liked that Mia had left her family behind seemingly without regret and kept moving whereas Pearl was desperate to put roots down. It was as though Elena and Mia had the wrong daughters!

Did you base any characters on anyone you know/have met? Are there elements of you in any of them?

Hi FernieB! Thank you so much for reading and for recommending--hope it starts a good discussion for your book club.

All of the characters are imagined, though many of them steal little personality traits from people I know--that's how all writers work, I think. And there are elements of me in all of them, even Mrs. Richardson. I have to find a part of me in each character, or else I find I can't write them as full, rounded, complicated people.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:39:24

MamaCBear

By the way, great idea for a prank with the sticks in the locks! Is that something you'd heard of before or did you make it up?

Hi MamaCBear,

I am going to have to take the Fifth on this one--which here in the US is the amendment to the constitution that says you don't have to incriminate yourself. wink

MrsSchadenfreude Tue 26-Jun-18 21:39:53

Oh yes, that’s true about Switzerland! I have family there and my aunt can’t flush her toilet after 10.00 pm in her apartment block. No car washing on Sundays, or barbecues, or mowing the lawn either. We’re much more chaotic here wink although my block has a notice giving “silent hours” no-one pays much attention!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:42:06

Celama

Hi Celeste, I LOVED this book. It was one that I just wanted to keep reading when I should have been doing other things! It was beautifully descriptive and your style of writing was so believable. I haven’t read Everything I Never Told You although I will now; which one did you enjoy writing the most?

Hi Celama! Thank you so much for reading. The two novels were really different writing experiences--when I wrote Everything I Never Told You, I really didn't know if the book would ever be published or if anyone would ever read it, so writing it was a huge leap of faith and a very slow process. When I was writing Little Fires Everywhere, I was fairly sure it would eventually be published as the first novel had done well, so I felt some pressure to not disappoint my readers!

Having said that, writing Little Fires Everywhere was really, really fun. There was more space for some humor, more space for more characters and a bigger cast, and it was a delight to get to mentally revisit my teen years and my hometown. I really enjoyed it, in a way I seldom get to enjoy writing projects.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:45:05

SallySwann

It is interesting that you partially grew up in Shaker Heights. Is it as "perfect" as you portray and are there plenty of Richardson type families there?

Hi SallySwann! Shaker Heights is definitely not "perfect"--but I think the people who live there believe that it could be a perfect community if everyone just tried hard enough. I find that kind of idealism both admirable and terrifying. It's such a laudable goal, perfection, but taking idealism to extremes can be rather dangerous.

I will say that at almost every single reading I've done--even one in Munich, Germany!--there's been someone in the audience from Shaker Heights or who knows it well. They always tell me that they think I captured the town pretty accurately. And, incidentally, they always tell me they're pretty sure they know the Richardson family. wink

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:45:46

MrsSchadenfreude

Oh yes, that’s true about Switzerland! I have family there and my aunt can’t flush her toilet after 10.00 pm in her apartment block. No car washing on Sundays, or barbecues, or mowing the lawn either. We’re much more chaotic here wink although my block has a notice giving “silent hours” no-one pays much attention!

She... she can't flush her toilet after 10pm? Please don't tell Shaker Heights; I don't want them getting any more ideas!

SallySwann Tue 26-Jun-18 21:45:55

Thank you Celeste for such a lovely novel. The best ones are always the ones you don't want to end and thus was one such. I felt really sorry for Izzy throughout until it was clear that she really did set the fire. Did you imagine her finally catching up with Mia I wonder?

FernieB Tue 26-Jun-18 21:48:16

Thanks for answering my questions Celeste.

What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it? And where do you write?

Celama Tue 26-Jun-18 21:49:02

Thanks for such a full answer Celeste - I hadn’t thought about that aspect of having more to prove with a second book; you’ve really set yourself up now for your third!

VanderlyleGeek Tue 26-Jun-18 21:49:08

Re a third Ohio book: I hear the Cincinnati area has its charms. wink

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:51:21

ClaireTMumsnet

Good evening!

Welcome Celeste Ng! We're delighted that you're able to join us at the Mumsnet Bookclub to talk about Little Fires Everywhere, which we've been reading over the last month.

We've already received some questions so we'll hand over to you.

Could we also ask you the Mumsnet questions that we put to all of the authors who join us:

What was your favourite childhood book?

What was the last book you bought someone as a gift?

And the last book you received?

And finally - can you describe to us the room where you wrote Little Fires Everywhere?

As we're winding down, it's a good time to get to the traditional Mumsnet questions!

I was a total bookworm as a kid--my bookshelves were crammed full, and then another layer of books in FRONT of those! So it's hard to pick just one, but some of the books I read over and over were the Wizard of Oz series, the Narnia books, the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and everything by Roald Dahl. I still have most of my books from childhood, actually, and I'm starting to read them with my son, who's 7. He's already a huge Roald Dahl fan.

The last book I bought someone as a gift--hm, I haven't bought it yet but am planning to get my son the new illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, for his birthday soon. We're reading The Chamber of Secrets together right now and he's already eager for the third.

The last book I received--this is embarrassing, but I buy SO many books for myself no one ever dares give me any, because I usually already have it! The last book I bought myself was Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin--I couldn't find my copy from college, so I bought a new one.

ButDoYouAvocado Tue 26-Jun-18 21:54:27

Is Mia someine you could be friends with?

ButDoYouAvocado Tue 26-Jun-18 21:55:09

If the story of May Ling was in the news today whose side would you be on?

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:55:32

Oops, I left off the last Mumsnet question!

The room where I wrote Little Fires Everywhere: I have a spare bedroom in my house that I use as an office, and I write there most days. It's on the third floor of my office, so it's quite quiet and I look out through the treetops onto our little quiet street. The walls are sage green and I have a lot of quirky and inspirational art hung up to keep me motivated.

Some examples: a painting I made that's a quote from Annie Dillard's book "The Writing Life"--each letter is represented by a blob of a different color paint, so if you know which color means which letter, you can decode the whole quote. A cross-stitch a friend made me with a quote from Colson Whitehead: "Be Kind, Make Art, Fight the Power." Another cross-stitch from a friend that says "Don't argue with idiots. You're not the f*ckface whisperer." A map of Shaker Heights, which is still hanging up from when I wrote Little Fires Everywhere. On my desk: A glass octopus knickknack, a few seashells, a squishy foam donut, a bowl holding fountain pens, including one I got in Germany when I was 16. My typewriter. Everything in the office has a personal meaning for me, and it makes me happy to be in there, so I can get my writing done!

SometimesTheSmallestThings Tue 26-Jun-18 21:55:55

Thank you so much for answering - it’s so lovely to have a chance to talk to you after reading, such a great opportunity to hear so many thoughts on your writing. I have also not read Everything I Never Told You but it’s next on my list!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:56:09

SallySwann

Thank you Celeste for such a lovely novel. The best ones are always the ones you don't want to end and thus was one such. I felt really sorry for Izzy throughout until it was clear that she really did set the fire. Did you imagine her finally catching up with Mia I wonder?

Hi SallySwann, that would be telling, wouldn't it? I will say this: I'm sure she and Mia will be in touch again, and I'm also sure that Izzy will be fine in the end. smile

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:57:33

FernieB

Thanks for answering my questions Celeste.

What are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it? And where do you write?

Hi FernieB! I've been traveling all over doing book events, so I haven't been writing much. But I have a little break from travel this summer and am just starting to work on a new novel. It's in the small-green-seedling stage at the moment but hopefully will start coming together.

I write in my office in my house, usually--see above for a more detailed description--but sometimes, if I need a different vibe, I write in the Cambridge Public Library (a wonderful space), or in a few local coffee shops that I love.

ClaireTMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 26-Jun-18 21:57:37

Sadly we're almost at the end of our hour - it's flown by and a huge thank you to Celeste for answering our questions so fully and thoughtfully. It was great to hearing about the inspiring objects you surround yourself with when writing (I particularly liked the Colson Whitehead quote cross-stitch example).

One final question from us - which book do you think everyone should read this summer?

Thanks to everyone who joined us this evening, and I hope you all enjoyed the chat as much as we did at MNHQ!

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:57:58

VanderlyleGeek

Re a third Ohio book: I hear the Cincinnati area has its charms. wink

They do have excellent chili! wink

VanderlyleGeek Tue 26-Jun-18 21:59:54

Celeste, you are clearly a woman of taste and refinement! grin

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 21:59:59

ButDoYouAvocado

Is Mia someine you could be friends with?

Hi ButDoYouAvocado! I think so, yes. There's a lot to love about her and I think she'd be a friend who would give good advice when I needed it. She's definitely not perfect, but then, who is?

Regardless of whether readers want to be friends with the characters, though, as a writer I always hope the reader will understand my characters--even if they don't agree with them or like them. For me, that's my job: not to make you like the people I describe, but to let you see them as individuals, complicated and flawed just as all humans are.

ButDoYouAvocado Tue 26-Jun-18 22:01:55

I think youre quite right. I loved the book and read it almost in one sitting. Very best wishes for your future projects!

impostersyndrome Tue 26-Jun-18 22:01:57

I’m glad you think Izzy will be fine. I felt so sorry for her, not understanding why her mum treats her so unfairly. I thought you portrayed her finding refuge with Mia immensely satisfying.

CelesteNg Tue 26-Jun-18 22:02:25

ClaireTMumsnet

Sadly we're almost at the end of our hour - it's flown by and a huge thank you to Celeste for answering our questions so fully and thoughtfully. It was great to hearing about the inspiring objects you surround yourself with when writing (I particularly liked the Colson Whitehead quote cross-stitch example).

One final question from us - which book do you think everyone should read this summer?

Thanks to everyone who joined us this evening, and I hope you all enjoyed the chat as much as we did at MNHQ!

Ooh, tough question. No book works for everyone, so how about this: challenge yourself to pick up a book outside of your usual comfort zone. A classic you never got around to reading, a book of poems if you think you hate poetry, a graphic novel or a YA book if you usually read literary fiction... anything beyond what you usually reach for. You don't even have to finish it, but trying new things is a good way to stretch your brain. And who knows, maybe you WILL like it!

Thanks so much to everyone for your questions and for reading!

xo
celeste

Caffeinesolution Tue 26-Jun-18 22:03:36

Thanks so much for a brilliant webchat! I'm already excited for your next book. Best wishes.

MajesticWhine Wed 27-Jun-18 00:03:37

@ClaireTMumsnet
Please can you possibly get rid of the strike throughs on Celeste Ng's posts because it looks like they were unintentional.
Thanks

littlerose12345 Wed 27-Jun-18 09:21:08

Thank you for a lovely webchat!

Irishgurl Thu 28-Jun-18 11:14:17

I did enjoy the book. Would it really be possible to take a baby from USA to Canton without a passport? This seemed so far fetched. And the baby monitor was always on. I'm sure the parents would have woken up. A bit of a jarring end to an otherwise great read.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 06-Jul-18 11:58:35

Thanks to everyone for joining this brilliant webchat with Celeste Ng last week. Congrats to: Starlight36, Belo, Majesticwhine, ButDoYouAvocado, VanderlyleGeek, Celama, FernieB, SallySwann, MamaCbear, Impostersyndrome and littlerose12345 who have each won a copy of next month's book: ]] by Gill Simms. We'll be in touch by PM to let you know how to claim your book. We're launching July b.o.m on slightly later date of 12 July and the author webchat will take place in early September.

Finally if you're looking for further inspiration for your summer hols, do have a look at our Summer Reads recommendations. Happy Reading !

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